STP Records, or more specifically, Stuart Taylor, the man behind the label, is hugely involved in the U.K. punk scene and obviously has a long lasting affection for punk rock which is evident in the work and effort he puts into the scene. Loaded 44 provides his label’s most recent release with this 14-track album featuring personnel who have been in or worked with bands/people such as the Lurkers and Steve Ignorant. For me the name of the band conjures up the UK Subs and their excellent track “C.I.D.” which includes the phrase “Got a loaded 44 / Walking armory store” and it’s no major surprise to discover that this bands first ever gig was supporting the venerable Charlie Harper and his revolving band of troubadours back in 1996.
There should be enough clues in that opening paragraph as to the direction that Loaded 44 come from and where they are going to in terms of their music. It is clearly a sound that has a firm basis in and around the UK82 genre of punk rock but thankfully, unlike many of that ilk they have managed to move forward from the plodding feel that a lot of those bands used back in the day and which some still utilise under the banner of punk rock today.
With the striking and highly attractive, flame haired Beki as the focal point of Loaded 44, it is her voice which provides much of what I find myself enjoying about this album. It’s got quite a warm, deep feel to it which delivers an effective vocal backed up by an extremely competent but predictable punk sound. That’s not to be critical of what Dave (guitars), Steve (bass) and Nelly (drums) offer up by way of their input but for me it’s not striding through any new grounds or providing anything that makes me stop and listen intently to what they are doing. On my first listen I felt that particularly one of the guitar solos seemed slightly at odds to the song itself, “Drop That Bomb,” and it was with some dismay that I read that Olga (Toy Dolls) had played on two tracks and that this was one of them. This is a real shame too as it’s one of the standout tracks on the album but I really do find the solo grating on my nerves.
Despite the music being well produced and punchy (nice crisp and crunchy guitar sound, sharp drums and a thick, bouncing bass) and coming across loud and clear, it’s just not something I can get overly excited about. Whether or not this helps Beki’s voice to come to the fore I’m not sure but she steals the show here, although there are a handful of songs which just don’t work for me even with her voice, one of which is “Radio,” a song with a theme I find a bit overdone.
This will appeal to a lot of people as this style of punk is still widely popular given its older feel but that’s not to dismiss it totally from a more modern perspective as it still has a place in the 21st century. Whilst it’s unlikely to be a disc I reach for on a regular basis, if it comes up on random play on my MP3 player it won’t get ignored as it does have its moments and yes, the vocal performance is one I enjoy. If nothing else, Loaded 44 will provide males and females alike with a punk pin up, much like I had in her namesake (Beki Bondage of Vice Squad) during my teens.
Tracks to checkout include the aforementioned “Drop That Bomb” plus “We Saved The World,” “Bad News” and “Last Drink.”